Monday, November 26, 2007

Books Read

Sutras of Abu Ghraib by Aidan Delgado
I met Aidan in 2005 when he was giving a lot of talks on why he was a Conscientious Objector. He must have been working on this book at the time. He was struggling with a new-Buddhist dilemma that he wasn't doing as much meditation. After reading this book, I could see how that could be a struggle. His Buddhist practice, which included study and meditation, were what kept him sane in the insane world of occupied Iraq.

It was clear then when he said the lack of armor was not as scary as the pain in his heart over carrying a gun. He felt such relief when he put that gun down, the tough time he got from the other soldiers were as nothing compared to it.

It was clear now when I read the book and got more details of how he expressed his misgivings.

Aidan's book is not so much a war memoir as it is an introspection. It is exactly the sort of introspection that underlines the fact that a spiritually-minded person must separate himself and his spirituality from the deeds he is required to do in war. If you truly deeply in your heart believe it is wrong to kill, then if you are a soldier you must do something to reconcile yourself. The war machine encourages this. You must make the enemy less than human. You must absolve yourself from responsibility by telling yourself you are following orders. You cannot look deeply at how it makes you feel to hurt another, in fact you must learn to like hurting another.

This causes post traumatic stress disorder in soldiers, but is hardly acknowledged to do so. Aidan could no longer separate himself, with his earnest beginner's mind caught up in the Buddhist way. Oh, and there are people who are soldiers because they want to hurt people. Aidan witnessed plenty of those.

And then they come home. (That is not part of the book, but is something to think about.)

The Golden Compass (audio)
I read this book around the year 2000. I read all three of the trilogy in about a week...they are that brand of fiction that is like a drug you can't say no to. You can't put them down, you read until it is gone, and then you wonder why you can't stay in that world.

This time around I listened to it. The readers are more like actors giving voice to the characters. Listening forces a person to slow down, absorb the details, and I love the details. The only chalkboard screech: when I read it, my inner voice read "daemon" as sounding like "die-mon" (like the Greek would be) whereas the British pronunciation is "dee-mun." That gives you a completely different feel to what daemons are, and to me they are more like the Greeks intended: a spirit personification of a person's inner self.
On the other hand, while I did chuckle over the turning of Christianity on its head, I didn't really feel it was all that subversive until I got to the third book. (It builds.) I didn't know the author really was anti-Christian. Now, with the movie out, more people are aware of this and making sure readers are I did pick up on more of those details, and which makes me think the author did intend the devilish pronunciation.

One Dark Body by Charlotte Watson Sherman
The spiritual holds as much shape as the physical in this book. Raisin is born wrinkled due to her mother's failed abortion. Her mother left her to be raised by a foster-mother. When her mother comes back to Pearl, Washington, Raisin wants nothing to do with her. Other-worldly spirits have as much to say about it as the living people. Mystical and poetic, this follows in footsteps of Zora Neale Hurston.

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The scientists know that a giant meteor is going to hit the moon. The media is celebrating it. Kids are given assignments to write about it. What they don't expect is that it will knock the moon closer to the earth. The first indication that all will not be as it once was, crazy thunderstorms. Then tsunamis. Miranda writes all about it in her diary, just a teen who loves ice skating and sports. Cities are lost,volcanoes come awake, the earth shakes, people starve, but because this is a teen novel, I'm fairly sure Miranda is going to make it through.

The author gets a few digs in at the Bush administration (unnamed) and apocalyptic ministers. I thought the implications that this sporty girl was more likely to survive because she continued to exercise while she was starving was a bit off. Some of it seemed to be a lesson on how to survive such a worldwide calamity, which I find fun.

Circle of Magic Quartet by Tamora Pierce (audio)

Sandry's Book
I like the way this series relies on all four characters to save the day with their special magic, but each book in the quartet especially needs one of the children to rally her magic. In this the first, Sandry's natural ability to weave both relationships and magic is the key to a good ending.

Tris's Book
Tris is the first to see magic with the help of a spell by her teacher, but the other children soon pick it up from her. This happens between the four of them: they are indelibly linked through their magic. Tris must learn to guide her weather magic so they can all defeat the pirates.

Daja's Book
Each of these books has a pattern. The natural talent of the child-mage experiences a growth spurt through accident or instinctive need, and then the child-mage must learn to nurture and channel that newly-found ability to save the day, with the help of the complete circle. Daja's talent experiences this growth spurt when she gets it mixed up with Briar's green magic, and she grows a metal tree.

This magic metal tree is so valuable the traders that want it must barter directly with her, even though they have done their trader version of ex-communicating her as bad luck. It's a great lesson in creating a place in the world on your own terms. Tamora Pierce is great for that for girls.

Briar's Book
Briar's magic comes from plants, and by this the 4th book, how he draws upon it is well established. Now he can read, and must learn to channel his magic more methodically. How is a plague dealt with in a world with magic? Magic helps provide a few extra layers of protection and remedies.

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, audio read by Brendan Fraser
I was hardly aware this was a translation as I began listening to this engaging book. A good bit of the magic came from the reader, Brendan Fraser. I'd put it on my ipod, and at first I wondered who could be that talented, sexy, multi-voiced reader? He changes accents on a dime, from a Scottish brogue to Texan drawl, squeezing out the accentless Hollywood narrator voice all in the same breath.

A dragon, a brownie, and a boy set out on a quest to find the home of the silver dragons. They are helped on this journey by rats, an English scholar of fantastic creatures, and a djinni, among others. They must contend with an ancient nemesis, details of its dangers lost in the ages, and its spy right in their own backpack.

No comments: